Were you inspired by recent TV sewing shows and fancy making your own bra? Most of us have at least one perfect bra in our drawers that we’d love to re-make. A good fitting Ready to Wear bra, can provide the ultimate pattern, Professional fashion designer and Lingerie expert Susan Goodwin will show you how to make your perfect fitting bra pattern.
First up grab a bra you like the fit of, but is looking a little worse for wear. You want one that still retains the majority of shape and stretch as the more warped it is the more fit tests you are going to have to do to refine the pattern. You could of course use a brand new bra but sometimes we can’t always afford to do that. If you can though, go for it. Using a brand new one means it hasn’t had time to warp or stretch so you should end up with less faffing about to get your fit perfect.
Photograph it. Include detail shots, like how the band/cups are constructed. Interior shots are good too. What the back looks like. Then unpick it.
As you unpick, it’s a good idea to keep notes on the construction methods used. Like was it straight stitch or zig zag, was there a bar tack at the very top or a few millimeters away from the very edge. Was the elastic sandwiched in between the underwire casing and the outer fabric. I tend to take photos as well as notes to help jog my memory. Press but be mindful of not distorting the original shape.
Now that you have all the pieces and they are more or less the correct shape scan them. That way you can create a digital pattern you can also create a traditional paper pattern.
Start by tracing any pieces that are asymmetrical in shape. If you are using Illustrator the pen tool is your best option for this. Double check to make sure your scans are at actual size. Do not resize them from the original size or you will run into sizing problems when you make your actual bra.
If you are creating a traditional manual pattern use pattern weights to hold the pieces in place while you trace around. If your pieces are too small for that, try taping them in place using some magic tape or washi tape (basically any tape that is easy to remove. Now is not the time to be using super sticky tape that may damage your pattern). Use a sharp pencil, ruler and french curve to help you get the most accurate tracing possible. Be sure to mark seam allowances, grainlines, stretch direction and if needed add notes. The shapes are odd and very small so it can be easy to mix them up. A well placed this side up, this seam joins to that seam marking or note can make your life a whole lot easier. This pattern is for YOU so make all the notes and markings you need to.
Once you have all the asymmetrical pieces traced now it’s time to work on the symmetrical pieces. Mark the centre point of each of the pattern pieces. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half. Placing the fold line under the original fabric piece. Lining it up on the centre line you just marked. Once it is correctly aligned then you can trace out one side of your shape. Creating them on the fold is more accurate. Do this for all symmetrical shapes. If using illustrator, trace half and then copy the piece and flip it. Re join it to create one pattern piece.
When you are tracing from a garment that has been worn you will find more bumps and ridges as the fabric has distorted. So take your time now to be aware of this and adjust if needed?
It all comes down to the accuracy of your pattern. Take your time, trace carefully but also measure. Ensure that pieces that are to be joined are the same length, mark your notches, grainlines. Use your notes and photos to give yourself as much information as you need to get a really good pattern.
Now you have taken your bra apart and spent your time making an accurate pattern. So now it’s all about collecting everything you need to start sewing your bra.
1. Foam – I chose one that is about 4mm thick, the same as the bra I took apart
2. Decorative lace trim
3. Exterior fabric
4. Underwire casing
6. Contrast fabric – this could also be the same as the exterior fabric
7. Bra strap elastic
8. Rings – I find metal ones last longer and if you are putting your bras into the washing machine/dryer then I’ve found metal ones last much longer
9. Bra sliders – again I prefer metal but then can also be plastic
10. Powermesh – on this bra it’s powermesh but I have other bras that have a soft mesh, polyester spandex. If you can’t get exactly like the bra you took apart then be aware of the amount of stretch (or lack thereof) that you are adding to your bra.
11. Decorative bow
12. Decorative ribbon
13. At the bridge on this bra there is an exterior fabric and then the inner fabric is a non stretch fabric
14. Hook and Eyes
15. Mesh cover on internal cup seams. This one has a line of mesh but other styles I have use an incredibly soft satin ribbon. I’m thinking of going with the ribbon just because I already have some and it’s one less item to buy.
16. Lingerie elastic
In addition you will need thread, machine needles, a machine that can do straight stitch and zig zag and a large cup of tea or coffee to help you out during the assembly.
Before you get started ensure you have
• made sure I had all my pattern pieces
• got out all my supplies
• looked at the photos I took before unpicking my bra
• looked at another bra that is virtually identical to the one I unpicked
• placed a notebook and a pen by my machine
Start cutting and assembling the bra. Along the way take copious amounts of notes on how it sews together and what needs to be changed.
All this note taking and referencing is really important if you want to make multiple bras and it helps when it comes to fitting. If you’ve adjusted a seam allowance and then it’s tight you can figure out where the issue occurred.
Consider your first few bras as test fitting projects and don’t worry if they aren’t perfect, soon you will be making your very own beautiful bras.